drainage vs ventilation

Drainage vs. Ventilation: Which Crawl Space Problem Should I Fix First?

You’ve got *excess moisture* in the crawl space under your home, maybe even some musty smells coming from there too. You think more ventilation could be in order, or maybe poor drainage is the problem to solve . . . or both?? How do you know which one to tackle first?

Anchor Foundation Repair Bryan College Station

At Anchor Foundation Repair, we know firsthand how too much moisture affects a crawl space and often end up repairing pier and beam foundations that also have these issues. Even though we only work on leveling foundations, we know enough to know which remedy to try first to dry out your crawl space.

This article will discuss the recommended order to begin drying out your moisture-prone crawl space foundation. We discuss whether drainage or ventilation work should be done first and why. Then we will direct you to other resources to plan your drainage and ventilation enhancements.

Why Is a Dry Crawl Space Important?

Keeping a dry crawl space under your pier and beam home is really important. Excess dampness, moisture, and standing water left unchecked can cause *unpleasant issues* for homeowners both inside and underneath the home.

A wet crawl space creates a problematic environment that can foster:

moisture problems in a crawl space
Just a few of the problems we see under homes with excess moisture . . .

To prevent costly damage, it’s crucial to keep water away from under your home. A dry crawl space not only reduces the likelihood of these issues but also contributes to optimal foundation stability, even if you’ve already tried correcting one or more of these conditions before. 

These kinds of crawl space problems can keep coming back time and time again if you don’t deal with the root cause of the issue: excess moisture in vapor and liquid forms hanging out under your home.

Should I Work on Crawl Space Drainage or Ventilation First?

work on drainage first

We can confidently recommend working on drainage issues first. All the ventilation in the world won’t be able to dry out mass amounts of water constantly standing or flowing under your home. 

If you think about it, handling your drainage issues first might be enough to rectify your entire excess moisture problem. You may not even have to work on ventilation at all once you deal with a poor drainage situation. 

Your current passive airflow system just might be enough to ventilate and dry out normal amounts of water in a crawl space – as opposed to the *abnormal amounts* causing your sogginess woes right now. Make sense?

Drainage Remedies to Help Dry Out Your Crawl Space

work on your gutters for good drainage

The absolute best way to make sure the crawl space under your pier and beam or block and base foundation stays dry is to add to or improve your existing gutter system. If you don’t have any gutters, add them.

If you do have gutters, make sure they are in good repair, covering your home consistently, and taking water far away from the base of your home. Adding sufficient downspout extensions or underground downspout drains is *essential* to moving water away vs. staying right there next to your house or flowing underneath.

We talk about downspouts a lot in this article: The #1 Best Action to Keep Your Crawl Space Foundation Dry, as well as other drainage remedies to try like:

  • Swales and contouring (aka ditches and trenches),
  • Surface drains like catch basins,
  • French drains when done properly, and 
  • Sump pumps as a last resort.
drainage in your landscape

Check out “Can I Fix Poor Drainage Around My Home’s Foundation?” for 6 steps to work through to try and keep the water away once and for all. Working on drainage issues is not a quick process and involves trial and error. Water behavior is difficult to predict and control once it hits the ground.

Ways to Improve Crawl Space Ventilation

You’ve done everything you can possibly do on the drainage front and you still have too much dampness and humidity under your home. Now it’s time to work on ventilation and amp up your airflow for maximum drying power.

We will touch on a few ventilation concepts here, but for a full and detailed rundown, check out the 6 Best Ways to Improve Ventilation Under Your Pier and Beam Home as well.

improve ventilation

Passive Ventilation

It could be a simple matter of adding more vents, making larger vents, changing to a less restrictive vent cover, or switching out your skirting material. These are all passive ventilation methods that just foster airflow by being there and letting the wind and air circulate naturally.

Mechanical Ventilation

mechanical vent fan

Mechanical ventilation is for more serious ventilation issues. Rather than leaving the air to circulate naturally, you need a machine to do the work for you and effectively dry out that crawl space better.

This is where you’re adding a vent fan powered by electricity. Kinda like when you run the fan in your bathroom during a hot shower, only this mechanical vent fan is working under your home to actively expel that swampy air even when the wind isn’t blowing. 

Mechanical fans might activate based on the measured humidity level under the home or simply run all the time.

Whole Home Elevation

The ultimate way to increase ventilation is to elevate your whole home. Many crawl space homes were built without enough clearance and are too close to the ground. Low clearance is often a root cause of moisture accumulation and ventilation issues. 

If you happen to also need house leveling (aka foundation repair on a crawl space home), it’s sometimes possible to simultaneously elevate the home as well. Because it’s a more extreme measure, we would only recommend home elevation if there are beneficial reasons for you to elevate AND you’re already having foundation work done anyway.

Who Can Help Me Get Started with Drainage Work?

Now that you know that drainage work should come before ventilation, who can help you with all this drainage stuff? Anchor does not work on drainage, but we’re happy to help point you in the right direction toward a healthier home.

drainage work

At Anchor Foundation Repair, we’ve been helping to answer *all-things-foundation-related* for homeowners since 1985. Just because we don’t do the work you need ourselves, doesn’t mean we can’t help you out anyway with some good local recommendations.

Check out the 4 Best BCS Contractors for Drainage Issues Around Your Home Foundation for our list of companies that can get to work for you.